By Bonnie CoblentzMSU Ag Communications
Newswise — MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Parents aren’t the only ones who struggle with time management anymore; school children are finding it more difficult to squeeze in all the things they want to do each day.
Larry Alexander, 4-H youth development specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the beginning of the school year is a great time to make a time management plan.
“So many good things compete for the time of our children, making it very important for parents to sit down with them and help them decide what is most important,” Alexander said. “Start with school and the time needed for getting there and back and homework. Next, consider family obligations, and the time left in each day is the amount of time a child can dedicate to extracurricular activities.”
Students often spend that time on athletics, after-school programs, jobs, relaxation or educational programs such as 4-H.
“These are good activities, but there should not be so many of them that they add stress to the child’s life,” Alexander said. “It is important for parents to step in and help their children make the hard decisions if they find they are overscheduled and must cut something out.”
Some activities require more time than a person might expect. Students learning to play an instrument may take band during school hours, but they need to practice regularly to be successful.
Kathy Baker, a band director at Armstrong Middle School in Starkville, said the time invested in learning to play an instrument is worth the effort.
“When learning to play music, you are literally learning an entirely new language in which you can express yourself in ways you could have never done before,” Baker said. “Learning to play an instrument, sing or write music is a great way to develop some important life skills like goal setting, time management and the ability to be detail oriented.”
She said benefits go beyond simple enjoyment when music has a place in a student’s schedule.
“Research has shown that young people involved in musical activities have stronger neural connections, which in turn, help them process information better, lead to a higher IQ and test scores, better memory and attention, and better motor coordination,” Baker said. “Music and learning to play an instrument are wonderful ways a child can learn to express emotions in a positive, constructive and creative way.”
A key to making musical instrument practice or any other activity fit into the day is to make it a part of the young person’s regular routine.
“Many 4-H activities require the young person to spend a part of every day working on a project or improving their skills in a certain area,” Alexander said. “Learning this kind of dedication and persistence at a young age will serve them well as they grow older and take on adult responsibilities.”
Since childhood only comes once, it is also important to know when to say no.
“Just because an activity is good and fun does not mean your child should participate,” Alexander said. “Parents and young people should avoid the trap of overscheduled lives.”